A Thousand Islands Immersed in History: The Museum of Antique Boats Preserves the Traditions of the St. Lawrence River | Top Stories

For anyone who loves the St. Lawrence River, its history of navigation, or just getting out on the water, the Antique Boat Museum offers plenty of opportunities to experience the natural beauty of the water, in magnificent historic boats.

For many years, the museum has run its “Ride the River” program, where anyone can book a private river tour in a mahogany Hacker Craft runabout.

The iconic Ride the River boat today is Miss 1000 Islands III, a 30-foot-long Hacker-built runabout that was first launched in 2005. She began her time with the Antique Boat Museum in 2020.

The historic design and powerful engine, with over 380 horsepower, are an iconic symbol of the Thousand Islands’ rich history and strong seafaring traditions.

On a 45-minute journey around the Clayton waterfront and the Thousand Islands, visitors are treated to bits of local history, magnificent views, a one-on-one experience with veteran Thousand Island captains Islands and a healthy dose of speed. Wooden runabouts are often known for their powerful motors and high speeds, and Miss 1000 Islands III is a powerful machine herself.

Visitors can see the process of working and restoring a three-cockpit boat like Miss 1000 Islands III in the nautical workshop ashore. In the historic Stone Building on the Mary Street campus, visitors can see master carpenter Michael Gorman restoring a number of boats, including the 30-foot-long wooden runabout Footloose and Fancy Free.

Reservations to ride Miss 1000 Islands III must be made in advance by calling the Antique Boat Museum or at reception. Tickets are $40 per adult, $30 per youth, and $25 per child for non-members, and museum members pay a flat rate of $30 per person. Tickets to “Ride the River” also come with full museum admission.

Hacker is a brand started by John L. Hacker in Detroit in 1908. The boats were nationally known and the company remains the oldest wooden motorboat manufacturer in the world. Moving to New York in the 1970s, Hacker Craft was purchased by Morgan Marine in the 1980s, which still builds boats to Hacker’s original designs in Lake George.

The boat is one of many wooden runabouts in the Antique Boat Museum’s collection, but its modern construction makes it far better suited to the demands of running five tours a day, seven days a week.

For those looking for a longer experience, the Antique Boat Museum offers chartered sunset cruises on a number of its historic wooden craft.

For $350, visitors can charter the Gadfly, a sedan commuter boat built by Hutchinson Boat Works in 1931; Miss Thousand Islands III; or Teal, a mahogany runabout built in 1989 by Gar Wood.

For $700, visitors can charter the much larger Zipper, a classic 1974 commuter boat that seats 10 people.

For a sunset cruise, travelers depart from the docks of the Antique Boat Museum at 6:30 p.m., for an evening of beauty and pleasure on the St. Lawrence River. Visitors can bring a cooler with snacks and drinks, watch the sun set over the water, and return to dock at 8:30 p.m.

The quay has an elevator that allows people with disabilities to easily get in and out of these boats.

The captains who run these tours for the ship museum are all volunteers, fully certified as Master Mariners by the United States Coast Guard, according to Caitlin Playle, events and communications coordinator for the museum.

“It’s something we’re not budging on; they are all held to the highest security standards,” she said.

For people who want a more leisurely float down the river, the Antique Boat Museum also offers a free skiff delivery service, where museum patrons can paddle around French Creek Bay in a classic St. Lawrence skiff.

The St. Lawrence skiff is an icon of the region’s maritime tradition. Emerging in the waters around Clayton and Alexandria Bay in the late 1800s, plank-built boats were designed specifically for fishing along the US and Canadian coasts.

Now they offer a leisurely rowboat experience to area boaters. The Antique Boat Museum has a number of canoes and attendants seven days a week to help customers get in the water. They usually fit between one to three passengers.

To complement their experiences on the water, the Antique Boat Museum offers free community rowing and sailing sessions. Every Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. between June 28 and August 30, those interested can experience rowing or sailing in small boats belonging to the museum. Expert staff and volunteers will be on hand to offer help and advice to those unfamiliar with rowing or sailing.

In case of bad weather, the wet date for community sailing or rowing is Wednesday. All on-water experiences, from skiff livery to sunset cruises, are weather dependent and will be canceled in the event of rain or high winds.

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